Saturday, November 24, 2007

Taslima Nasreen - OMG

Like most modern platforms - the blog too is unsafe and insecure. This is what I just discovered after inadvertently leaving a comment on another blog - greatbong. The main comment was appreciating a post on the situation in West Bengal - a small after thought was about Taslima Nasreen's presense in Kolkata. So right now even as the hounds are baying for my blood - I shall make an attempt to state my views on Taslima from an immigration point of view - since I write on immigration matters and have some understanding about it. Firstly, the majority of Taslima's supporters - at least on greatbong's blog - are not liberal Leftists but rather the Hindutva brigade. What I gather is that the latter is a very aggressive group who given a chance would bulldoze anyone that comes in their way and reduce them to pulp. Their political opinion has no place for tolerance.
Moving on to Taslima, she enjoys UN refugee status and hence a country like India is in no position to force her to leave. But given the various law and order issues that West Bengal and other states have, I feel a person like her who is a self proclaimed humanist and human rights activist should leave for another country in the West which is better equipped to give her the high level security that she obviously needs. I don't think the government of West Bengal can afford to notch up a huge bill in providing her security and dealing with riots that may occur because of her presence in Kolkata. I'm sure in certain European countries, there is no likelihood of riots because of Taslima but in India it is very likely. Obviously rioting cannot be condoned and should be dealt with aheavy hand. But as experience has shown us, it is always better to avoid riots than deal with them when they happen. The huge loss of lives and suffering that accompanies rioting is absolutely avoidable at all costs, even if it means politely asking Taslima to leave. Also if there's money to spare - instead of using it for Taslima's security - why not use it for the uplift of the girl child in India's villages? Or even for relief to women who are victims of the cyclone in Bangladesh. My very personal opinion is that Taslima is a publicity hungry intellectual - who is putting her own safety at stake by remaining in India. If she moved to say Norway for instance, she would be safer but obviously less visible. That seems to be her main problem. When we come to the issue of granting permanent resident status to her, like all other countries India has the liberty to choose its immigrants. The US even cancelled the short-term visit visa of Narendra Modi because they perceived him to be a threat to peace - so why cant India ask Taslima to leave because she's a threat to peace?
Finally, I cant bring myself to equate Taslima with Salman Rushdie on the grounds that Rushdie is great writer while Nasreen is at best mediocre. Rushdie is a Booker winner and the creator of a new genre in English literature. Surely we cant put him and Nasreen on the same platform. And in any case, India is not offering permanent residence to Rushdie - so why Taslima? If we were to take on the responsibility of granting political amnesty to everyone who's prosecuted by Muslim fundamentalists, we would increase our population by many millions. Do we really have the resources to do that?
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

An island of contrasts and tranquility

I'm just back from Singapore - I like it there because it's such a relaxed city, country & island. The shopping is good, the food and drinks are great, the work was good, networking was not stressful and sightseeing very enjoyble. Despite being a financial hub and tourist hub - one of the biggest in SE Asia, life seems to move along at an easy pace. For one thing whether you are a tourist, a business traveller, a single woman - or whatever - you wont get stressed on any issue other than the non-availability of taxis during rush hour.
Of course, besides taxis, there's Singapore's hi-tech MRT system, which easily puts London Underground to shame. Overall, the public transport system is well-oiled and does not take tourists and foreigners for a ride. Security issues for women in Singapore are almost non-existent and the average person on the street is polite, helpful, non-aggressive and service-oriented. For someone who lives in Delhi - that believe me is a very big change. Again the sheer variety that one finds in the island-nation from beaches, to Buddhist temples, awesome dim-sum cuisine and spectacular Hindu temples, tree lined avenues, fascinating highrises, museums, art galleries and sprawling malls - the place has just everything and that too within an average of 15 minutes cab distance of each other. Singapore's China Town is the usual buzzy district with fascinating shopping options and great dim sum cuisine. A special mention could definitely be made of the local Tiger beer.
Mustafa shopping centre which forms the hub of the Indian district, is also very vibrant and good for quick fix and fast track shopping solutions. The upmarket VivoCity Mall, near Sentosa Island, on the other hand is a place to go hunting for designer and luxury brands - or just hang out and soak in the ambience.
Hotel Pan-Pacific where I had put up had a great gym and a swimming pool surrounded by dizzying skyscrapers. The weather too was not a complete wash-out and it rained a bit and was sunny for a bit.
A walk along the Singapore riverfront with a friend and lunch at one of the riverside thai restaurants was a treat - as was dinner with my cute nephews Ghotu & Kabir! Shopping at the malls was pretty good too and I picked up my long-time object of desire - an iPod Nano - from the well-known IT mall Funan. Also took a look at the current blockbuster the iPhone and the sexy PlayStation 3. From Australians to Indians, everyone wants an iPhone, it seems.
And now the Singapore government is looking for Indian immigrants in a big way for skilled jobs. Work permits are processed on the fast track and are not subject to any number quotas. The authorities are also wooing Indian students to some of the top engineering and management institutions. Hope, Indian IT professionals are listening - it's time to look East perhaps and leave behind the H1B worries folks.
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